The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will continue to highlight and push reforms to address alternative measures that may mitigate the excessive use of pre-trial detention.
Executive Secretary of NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, made this known on Thursday, during a visit to the Kuje Prison in commemoration of The African Pre-Trial Detention Day 2019.
The day is marked every April 25, is commemorated annually to raise awareness to the plight of thousands of people who are held in detention in police cells and prisons across Africa for prolonged periods without trial.
Ojukwu, represented by his special assistant Mr Benedict Agu, said that the commission would also strengthen the principle of presumption of innocence and guarantees for a fair trial.
”As a takeholder in the criminal justice administration, we shall continue to highlight and push for reforms and best practices in our criminal justice system.
” One of these best practices is the de-criminalisation of petty offences in the criminal administration system.
” The principle on the de-criminalisation of petty offences in Africa, is aimed at declassifying petty offences in our criminal justice system administration, ” he said.
Ojukwu added that the offence outlined under the principle included being a rogue and vagabond, idle or disorderly, loitering, begging, being a vagrant.
Others according to him are failure to pay debt, being a common nuisance and disobedience to parents.
He further said that the theme for this year’s commemoration which was ‘ De-criminalisation of Petty Offences in Africa ‘ was apt and imperative considering the overcrowded conditions of the prisons.
” It also underscores the need for the introduction of non custodial sentencing and treatment of offenders into our criminal justice administration, ” he said.
NAN reports that 23 inmates were brought out to interact with the NHRC staffers.
Ojukwu asked the inmates to go through the prison authorities to bring formal complaints to the commission.
He added that it would not be possible to handle all the cases individually within this short visit.
Responding, Mr Innocent Onoja, Deputy Controller General in charge of Kuje prisons, said the interaction has exposed the state of affairs for those with petty offences.
He added that , most of these inmates do not have business being in the prison.
NAN reports that the African day on Pretrial detention was in line with the Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa.
This was officially launched by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘ACHPR’) during its 56th Ordinary Session in Banjul, Gambia on April 25, 2015. (NAN )